Time with the best

While I'm the Editor of Farm Industry News my role at Penton Farm Progress is sometimes bigger, and varied. This week I'm at the Sunbelt Ag Expo in Moultrie, Ga., and yes it's my third "wet" farm show this year. It's a truly Southern show that continues to look at farm technology in new ways.

One feature of the show is the Farmer of the Year program - in fact it's the Swisher Sweets Sunbelt Expo Southeast Farmer of the Year program - and it brings together a top farmer from each of 10 southeastern states. And we're involved in the program through our affiliation with Farm Press - part of the Penton Farm Progress family of publications.

To make a long story short through this affiliation I conduct a farmer roundtable with current-year honorees and past winners. It's a gathering of some very sharp minds and I'm reminded very year I get to host this group that I'm talking to what I call the "top-thirds" these are the farmers in your county you know and respect, but you know they're also pushing the envelope.

During this week's roundtable we discussed a range of issues - we pledge not to get into specifics so that everyone is open to sharing in the group. But rest assured that among this top group of farmers with all their varied operations - from orchards and timber to corn and soybeans - they have common concerns. It's refreshing to know that we can reach common ground on topics even when businesses are so different.

Regulations are a concern. Technology is a concern. Of course they're all worried about the Waters of the United States move by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers. Some farm in sensitive areas, where they take good care of their land and manage resources to protect sensitive areas, yet feel under pressure at all times on those issues.

On the technology front, it's the speed of change. And they're embracing that change, or that's how they're bringing next-generation family into their businesses. Either way, they're not shying away from the potential.

Interestingly none were jumping on the drone bandwagon, yet. They've toyed with it, but still question its value. That's only because they've not had a chance to get data on their farms (thanks Federal Aviation Administration). In the future they think the tech could be of value, but today there are more questions than answers.

One producer did raise a question not about how they might lose the tech, but how others might use the tech to invade their privacy. While there were some jokes about solutions to the problem (not to be replayed here) it is a concern that will have to be addressed in the future.

The 10 finalists in the Swisher Sweets Sunbelt Expo Southeast Farmer of the Year program run a diverse range of operations. Overall winner, Philip Grimes, Tifton, Ga., is fourth from the left.

Just spending time with bright minds in agriculture is refreshing. The program does name an overall winner of the program and for 2014 that is Philip Grimes, Tifton, Ga., earned that honor.

For me, spending time with current honorees and past winners is always refreshing and valuable. And it always gives me ideas for how to make Farm Industry News better. You can help too, just share an idea or two with me either by commenting on this blog or by emailing me at [email protected].

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